European edition, Tuesday, July 24, 2007

KUTNO, Poland — For the Stuttgart-Wiesbaden Bulldogs, the road to the Little League World Series will begin with a steep step Monday night.

The Bulldogs — Germany champions of Little League Baseball’s Transatlantic Region — drew seven-time defending champion Saudi Arabia in their opening game of the Transatlantic Regional tournament that began here Monday.

That’s the same Saudi Arabia program that has represented the region at the Little League World Series 12 times in the last 13 years. But that’s done little to rain on the Bulldogs’ parade, according to some parents lunching at a local hotel here Monday.

“The boys are so psyched,” said Cindy Tannenbaum, wife of Bulldogs coach Larry Tannebaum. “They don’t care whom they play. They just want to get out there and throw the ball around.”

Weather permitting, they were to get a chance to do that Monday evening when they take on the defending champs. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the Bulldogs will be competing against Italy champion Naples, England champion London and United Arab Emirates champion Dubai for the trip Williamsport, Pa.

From their experience at the Germany tournament, it’s easy to understand the Bulldogs’ enthusiasm: They lost their opener, then came from four runs down in the title game against perennial champion Ramstein-Vogelweh to win their berth here.

“These kids are very laid back,” said Tim Byrd, whose son, Chris, made the team as a catcher after tryouts in the Wiesbaden area. “They’re not in panic mode.”

The kids might not be, but their parents have been traveling a hectic road the past few weeks.

Like several parents, Tannenbaum, for example, served as a foster mother to Bulldogs from Wiesbaden and Stuttgart players whose parents moved before the tournament. On top of that, the trip to Poland just happened to coincide with her son’s bar mitzvah and the myriad details accompanying that rite.

Tannenbaum said community involvement, including nearly $3,000 in donations, was invaluable in getting the Bulldogs to where they are now.

“The YS (Youth Services) couldn’t do enough for us,” she said. “The director, Mark Juliano, let us keep the equipment we needed to go to the tournaments, and the YS kept the fields maintained for us, even though the season was over.”

Opening ceremonies of the regional were scheduled to precede the Saudi Arabia-Bulldogs game, but the tourney got under way Monday morning when London pinned a 12-1 run-rule defeat on Naples in just four innings.

Brett Fitzpatrick’s bases-loaded double to right was the big blow in an 11-run second for the England champs, whose Junior League elders dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Ukraine here last week in the title game for 13-14 year olds.

Transatlantic schedule

Monday England 12, Italy 1, 4 inningsSaudi Arabia vs. Germany, late

Tuesday Italy vs. Saudi Arabia, 10 a.m.England vs. United Arab Emirates, 3 p.m.

Wednesday United Arab Emirates vs. Saudi Arabia, 10 a.m.Germany vs. Italy, 3 p.m.

Thursday Germany vs. United Arab Emirates, 10 a.m.England vs. Saudi Arabia, 3 p.m.

Friday England vs. Germany, 10 a.m.United Arab Emirates vs. Italy, 3 p.m.

Saturday No. 1 vs. No. 4, 10 a.m.No. 2 vs. No 3, 3 p.m.

Sunday Third place, 10 a.m.Championship, 3 p.m.

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